This birch marks the northwest corner of our property. It may well be the formal corner of the property line but for many years it was simply the fact that everyone on the road pointed to it that made it the formal boundary. Their word was good enough and our acceptance of their word initiated us into the inner circles of a devoutly rural group of farmers and those returning to the country after a few years “in town.”
Over the 28 years here, we learned a number of things. The lane way to the house was once the road into the city. Tramped down by horses and old rattlebone trucks and marked by a wooden fence, it served the locals for generations. Every summer, the tip of a fence post works its way up from the ground only to be tamped down by our vehicles. We paved over it when the dust of lane way finally got the better of my tolerance for cleaning every day. Every summer, the tip of the fence post raises the asphalt a few millimeters.
The house was built from wood cut down on the property. The walls are pine, hand-routed as tongue-and-groove planks and the living-room-now-zendo floor was laid with wide pine planks. After many years of dogs scrabbling to gain purchase when called for dinner, the scarred old pine was overlaid with new planks. Wanting to re-create the worn look, the contractor joyfully walked around the installed floor tossing an axe and hammer to “antique” it with dents and cracks, much to the horror of The Kid.
When we moved here there were 12 homes on the road. Now there are twice as many. It was a rare day that we could walk to the end of the road without stopping at least four or five times to chat and catch up on the news. Now we are sadly secure in knowing we can run or walk the length of the road and more, uninterrupted in our pace. People have sold, retired, left for cottages or far away places. We have little in common with those left given our preference for long silent evenings reading or writing. And the newcomers are, well, young.
We’ve lived here for the span of a generation. And for all the drama and dharma that has unfolded within and around these walls, my greatest teacher has been that fence post rising up out of the lane way, every year, millimeter by millimeter.
Hakuin reassured his students that the “true wind” of the Dharma would never fall to the earth (never cease or be lost). That true wind is “the One Great Matter of human life: striving with fierce and courageous determination to bore through the barrier into kensho.” To practice Zen, three essentials are required: great faith, great doubt, and “a great, burning aspiration.” Hakuin taught that “(t)he most important of the three is the great, burning aspiration. ” Without this, the Bodhisattva vow to heal and save all beings from “ignorance, the afflicting passions, birth-and-death” will not be possible.
What is a great, burning aspiration?
The intense arousing of the mind in fearless determination to move forward to deliverance.
Thank you for practising,